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Thread: MCRU Phonostage Bake-Off - Huddersfield 06/08/17

  1. #1
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

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    I'm Oliver.

    Default MCRU Phonostage Bake-Off - Huddersfield 06/08/17

    Phonostage bake off


    Not long back from the bake-off and i have to say, it was really good. Lots of very expensive kit but equally as impressive were the performances.

    The reference unit used for the BO was a MFA MM phono stage with a SUT. All designed and built by Nick Gorham. The Amps were LDA monoblocks (Nicks again) and a prototype TT. A VDH retipped DL103R performed the cartridge duties. Yamaha N1000M speakers.

    So, here is how the various stages sounded to me.

    Longdog JFET phono stage: 2000 (Nick Gorham design and build)

    I am afraid i didn't manage to get too much info other than the cost but i kid you not, It was fantastic. Solid, full of attack, sustain, silky smooth, delicate, i could go on and probably should! . Everything was just as i would want it to be, tonally accurate, slamming bass, great leading edge to a note, Huge sound stage, precise imaging. WOW. It just hit everything with pin point accuracy. Hard to describe but you'd want one if you heard it.

    Firebottle Vivant (provided in a KIN preamp): 1100

    Hugely impressive performance. Lots of air in this presentation. Liquid treble, smooth midrange with loads of detail and a wicket 3D image. Scale and depth in abundance and excellent channel separation. It really sucks you in to the performance. The transparency is divine and its ability to deliver the intricacies of a track, really to shine through. One area i felt the Longdog exposed was the weight of the sound. The Vivant is airy, free and delivers a wonderfully insightful and unfatigued performance, I think if the weight was added to the sound, it'd be hard to beat at this price point.

    NVA Phono 2 with extra power supply: 680 - 700

    Well, if i had 700 to spend on a phono stage, this is what i would buy. Energetic, powerful, engaging, precise, detailed and a whole lot of musicality. I am really pleased i have had the chance to hear this. It started well and got better, the snare was sharp, twangy and had real snap. The drums really stood out due to the attack and the tonality was excellent. It was crystal clear and pin point. It never lost focus in the busy areas of the songs and the bass was delivered with heft and grip. I am incredibly impressed with this phono stage. Excellent.

    Firebottle OTP MK2 : 300

    Another typical Firebottle sounding device! Somehow, this unit is very similar to the Vivant in voicing. There is a similarity in space, soundstage, liquidity of the treble and midrange and the bass is very well held together and delivered with impetus. Timing and rhythm are easy to follow and the tonality is spot on. Plenty of scale and it digs very low. I think this Phonostage is incredibly accurate with tonal realism. This is a very smooth performer. Opamp rolling is an option here so fine tuning the sound is at the owners discretion and i really like this.

    NVA Phono 1: 280- 300

    A very good sounding unit but for me, it sounded a bit lost trying to deliver the cymbals on the test track. Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of jazz but the timing of the test track seemed hard to follow. It also seemed the treble was slightly overpowering and i found myself not listening to the song but rather trying to follow the cymbals. It shares a lot of the good qualities from the Phono 2 which is very impressive and its very enjoyable. There wasn't a lot between this and the OTP MK2 but in terms of overall clarity, I felt this lost out a smidgen.

    I've only heard this unit once and it was with a track i didn't really like, so it may be a victim of the track. I'd prefer to try this again with a few familiar tracks before passing final judgment.


    Furutech MDL 400


    To me, this was awful. Thin, toppy and splashy. Next to no Mid randge and hardly any bottom end. Narrow soundstage and absolutely no depth. AVOID


    There were a couple of other stages, but as they are not commercially available to buy i haven't included them.
    Last edited by Bigman80; 07-08-2017 at 08:05.
    Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 tonearm > ZYX R50 Bloom cartridge > Jolida JD9 MKII > Firebottle Monoblocks > Creek OBH-11SE Headphone Amp > IXOS Speaker Cables > Pioneer CS-77A Speakers

  2. #2
    Join Date: Sep 2014

    Location: brighton uk.

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    I'm jamie.

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    great write up mate
    My System/ Yamaha NS1000M speakers, Townsend Elite rock 2 turntable,,Alphason HR-100S-MCS tonearm,Decca C4E cartridge ,Sony 700ES Amp,Sony X555ES CD Player, Nakamichi ca5 pre amp ,

  3. #3
    Join Date: Nov 2015

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    I'm Oliver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamie123 View Post
    great write up mate
    Cheers mate

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
    Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 tonearm > ZYX R50 Bloom cartridge > Jolida JD9 MKII > Firebottle Monoblocks > Creek OBH-11SE Headphone Amp > IXOS Speaker Cables > Pioneer CS-77A Speakers

  4. #4
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

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    I'm James.

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    Nice write up Oli although a bit of a limited selection of phono stages with 2 Firebottles and 2 NVA. Not surprised Nicks came out on top. Would have been good to have seen/ heard some other makes there?

    The OTP looks like it is best bang for bucks reading your review and would be a great starter phono stage for those getting into vinyl. Like the fact it is also MM and MC.
    VPI Scout 1.1 / JMW 9T Tonearm / 2M Black /Croft 25R+ / Croft 7 / Spendor SP2

  5. #5
    Join Date: Nov 2015

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    I'm Oliver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Nice write up Oli although a bit of a limited selection of phono stages with 2 Firebottles and 2 NVA. Not surprised Nicks came out on top. Would have been good to have seen/ heard some other makes there?

    The OTP looks like it is best bang for bucks reading your review and would be a great starter phono stage for those getting into vinyl. Like the fact it is also MM and MC.
    To be fair Jimbo, that NVA1 is a good unit. I wish they had played a more suitable track, although one could argue it should've been able to play anything but as the OTP didn't get to play the same track, it's hard to harsh on the NVA phono1 The OTP is a good unit and yes, definitely my pick for a first upgrade.


    The Nick Gorham stuff was outstanding. Can't rate it highly enough.

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
    Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 tonearm > ZYX R50 Bloom cartridge > Jolida JD9 MKII > Firebottle Monoblocks > Creek OBH-11SE Headphone Amp > IXOS Speaker Cables > Pioneer CS-77A Speakers

  6. #6
    Join Date: Sep 2010

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    I'm Lee.

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    Nice write up, the OTP is fantastic for the money, had it last week and it performed admirably. Did the Tron get a run out
    NAS Spacedeck / Jelco 750D / EAR 834P modified / Denon DL 103 / Audio Note Empress Silver / Hattor Passive Pre / Mac Mini / Lampizator Atlantic Plus tube rectified Dac / Horns.pl Mummy's/ Cables are Audio Note and Albedo / Gigawatt Power Conditioner

  7. #7
    Join Date: Jan 2013

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    I'm James.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigman80 View Post
    To be fair Jimbo, that NVA1 is a good unit. I wish they had played a more suitable track. The OTP is a good unit and yes, definitely my pick for a first upgrade


    The Nick Gorham stuff was outstanding. Can't rate it highly enough.

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
    Yep I have heard his top phono stage I think it's around 10,000 but it is absolutely wonderful.
    VPI Scout 1.1 / JMW 9T Tonearm / 2M Black /Croft 25R+ / Croft 7 / Spendor SP2

  8. #8
    Join Date: Nov 2015

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    I'm Oliver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Henley View Post
    Nice write up, the OTP is fantastic for the money, had it last week and it performed admirably. Did the Tron get a run out
    It did. I didn't do a write-up as it's a one off. It did very well though. I think I preferred the OTP MK2 though. Doing further testing at home though as it only got one track.

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
    Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 tonearm > ZYX R50 Bloom cartridge > Jolida JD9 MKII > Firebottle Monoblocks > Creek OBH-11SE Headphone Amp > IXOS Speaker Cables > Pioneer CS-77A Speakers

  9. #9
    Join Date: Nov 2015

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    I'm Oliver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Yep I have heard his top phono stage I think it's around 10,000 but it is absolutely wonderful.
    It's divine. There's no other description necessary lol.

    Sent from my EVA-L09 using Tapatalk
    Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 tonearm > ZYX R50 Bloom cartridge > Jolida JD9 MKII > Firebottle Monoblocks > Creek OBH-11SE Headphone Amp > IXOS Speaker Cables > Pioneer CS-77A Speakers

  10. #10
    Join Date: May 2011

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    I'm Brian.

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    Nice write up Oliver , thanks for taking the time to post this up . After a visit to Alans place in January and hearing some of his gear I have ordered one of his OTP phono stages . Expected soon
    Regards
    Brian

    Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment . (Rumi )


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